Bear likes taste of fresh chicken

7 of family's chickens killed since Aug. 16
Aug. 27, 2013 @ 08:27 AM

The chickens in Chuck and Wendy Larson's coops do more than just lay eggs -- they are considered pets to the Larsons' three children, Rain, 13, Lyric, 11, and Stone, 8. But lately several of them have become dinner for a black bear, perhaps two.

Since the first time the coops were broken into, the number of chickens has dwindled from 13 to six, Chuck Larson said.

"This bear has also been raiding my trash cans and going onto decks, bashing around propane grills," he said.

The Larsons live off Craig's Creek Road near Mortimer, off Wilson Creek. It is bear territory, but bears are seldom seen.

Rain had noticed Aug. 16 three chickens had gotten loose, and knew something was wrong. Then she saw the bear and ran back into the house.

Christine and Jimmy Clark live two houses away. They were entertaining guests on their deck Aug. 18 when the smell of the grill brought a small bear out of the woods.

"It knocked our grill over," Christine said. "I grabbed a video camera, but by the time I got ready to record the bear it got spooked and left."

She estimated the bear to be between 200 and 250 pounds, large enough to scare even her German shepherd, Journey.

A bear, presumably the same one, also showed up at her house the next three days in a row.

Larson thinks a shortage of natural bear food -- including muscadines, persimmons and blackberries -- has given them a dose of courage, behavior he feels could put his three children in harm's way.

"It has rained constantly," Larson said. "Their food is gone. I think they're hard-struck for food. It's a joy to see black bears, but once you see this behavior, they can be dangerous."

Larson set up a video camera to "catch" the predator in the act. Which he did, on several occasions. From his computer, he pulled up a video shot last week of a small bear snooping around the coops. Another video, although grainy in quality, shows a bear ripping the door off the chicken coop and snatching one chicken as another one flies out of the coop.

Larson said a bear even climbed over the top of the coop and scampered up the steep slope behind his house, a bear much larger than the one seen nosing around the coops.

"At the time, the camera was set just over my head, about 7-feet high," he said. "The bear in that video touched the camera with its nose. Two bears could mean competition or a mother and cub still together, making them more aggressive and dangerous."

While black bears are rarely aggressive toward people, they can become bold when they grow accustomed to feeding on human food, garbage and bird seed, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. When this happens, black bears can lose their fear of humans. 

Larson would like to see the bear relocated instead of killed, if it proves to be a menace. However, the Wildlife Resources Commission does not normally relocate bears. Larson may enlist the help of hunters to run the bears off his property, and to protect his chickens.

"If it makes another major appearance I will see if I can let bear hunters come in and use dogs (no guns) to run it off," Larson said. "Dogs probably dislodged it from somewhere else to begin with."

For now, the Larsons are making do with fewer eggs.

"We're 45 minutes to the nearest big town. We're just trying to get by," he said.